JaMychal Green was one of two United States players to turn in a double-double as the USA Basketball Men's Under 18 National Team earned its fourth victory in the FIBA Americas U18 Championship in Formosa, Argentina, Thursday night. The USA will play for the gold medal Friday night.
Alabama freshman-to-be JaMychal Green had 16 points and 10 rebounds as the USA defeated Canada, 82-66, for the USA's fourth victory in four days. Canada fell to 2-2 in the medal semifinal contest.
The USA will attempt to capture its fifth gold medal in six FIBA Americas U18 Championships on Friday night against also undefeated Argentina (4-0), which earned its berth to the gold medal contest by virtue of an 83-68 victory over Puerto Rico in Thursday night’s final game.
In other Thursday games, Uruguay (2-2) stormed back in the third quarter and went on to down winless Bahamas (0-4) 76-69, while Venezuela (2-2) defeated also winless Mexico (0-4) 90-78.
Also contributing a double-double for USA was Ryan Kelly, who had 12 points and 10 boards. Additionally, Connecticut freshman-to-be Kemba Walker had 13 points and eight assists and UCLA freshman-to-be Malcolm Lee was the fourth player in double digits for points with 12.
“Clearly getting in foul trouble with Malcolm Lee and JaMychal Green in the first half hurt us,” said USA and Davidson College Head Coach Bob McKillop. “However, I was delighted with the way we were in control of the game the whole way through. There’s a tendency at this point not to play to win, but play not to lose. We talked about that and we had a double-digit lead for three quarters of the game. Yet you’d think it was a two-point game based on the emotions and the passion that were exhibited throughout the entire game."
Although the USA led from wire to wire, it was a battle from tip to finish. Canada borrowed a page from the USA’s playbook as both teams played relentless defense.
Green started it off with a traditional three-point play and Kelly followed that with a bucket off a feed from Walker in the USA’s opening 5-0 run. But Canada closed to two points, 15-13, with 3:33 to play in the first quarter. Walker nailed a three 30 seconds later, sparking an 8-0 spurt that was bookended by a three from Dominic Cheek, and the defending FIBA Americas U18 gold medalist was up by 11 points, 24-13. By the first break the U.S. remained up by double digits, 26-16.
Still holding a 10-point advantage, 31-21 at 7:18, the United States went on another run and expanded its lead to 37-23 with 5:45 to go before halftime. But the U.S. was unable to put the nail in Canada’s coffin as it had done in its previous two games and by the midway break the gap remained at 14, 46-32.
“I think we could have played better,” said Green. “But I’m just glad that we made it to the gold medal game. We need to be more focused tomorrow. I knew my team needed me to step up my game, so I tried my best to step up and get rebounds and put-backs.”
The USA had three big men in foul trouble at the break as Travis Wear picked up three in the first half and his twin, David Wear, along with Green and Lee each had two early fouls, limiting the USA’s inside options.
Keeping its double-digit lead in tact, the USA closed the third quarter up 64-49.
Scoring four points in the opening minutes of the final stanza, during which time Travis Wear was whistled for his fourth foul and Kelly, another U.S. big man, picked up his third, the Canadians went on to outscore the United States 9-2 and with 6:14 to play the USA momentarily found its lead had shrunk to eight points, 66-58.
“I believe they only cut it to an eight point deficit and we answered right away,” said McKillop. “The offensive glass of Ryan Kelly, JaMychal (Green) and Travis (Wear) down the stretch was very important to us. Canada had a great performance by Mangisto Arop. He was tremendous today. It was very difficult to defend him, but I think we had enough guys that defended him and made it difficult for him down the stretch.”
Responding with vigor, the Americans picked up their defense and the offense responded. Kelly worked his way inside for an offensive board and a put-back and started a 12-0 run that iced any upset hopes by Canada. By the end of the spurt, which saw Green convert on a pair of offensive boards and score seven points in all, the United States held its biggest lead of the game, 78-58, with 2:41 to play. Canada never fully recovered and the U.S. earned its berth into the gold medal game.
The USA outrebounded its neighbors to the north 59-41, scored 54 points in the paint and collected 16 points in transition.
For Canada, Mangisto Arop, who has verbally committed to Gonzaga University, scored a game-high 21 points, Simon Bibeau had 14 and Marc Trasolini scored 12.
With the win, the USA upped its all-time record at this event to 33-1.
Virginia Commonwealth University Coach Anthony Grant and Georgetown University Coach John Thompson III are serving as assistant coaches for USA.